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Columns > John Zinkand - Improvise

Published: 2002/02/20
by John Zinkand

After the Buzz Has Worn Off

The internet and all of its electronic informational glory was a new thing to most people in the 1990s. People didnt know what to make of this new invention. They knew that it made it possible for them to send messages back and forth in seconds and that, with just a few clicks of the mouse, any information imaginable became obtainable. As the years progressed, so did our internet savvy.
The internet is no longer a mysterious world of information, shops, and discussions. In fact, it can be broken down into a few different categories of websites. There are the practical sites that have little to no flashy graphics or nice colors, but instead have basic text which convey simple information about the government or public parks, for example. Then there are the purely fun or whimsical sites that have no real commercial or informational value. These are the sites with the singing woodchucks, a dancing Dubya, or things to do when one is bored. Finally, there are the business websites. Business websites are fairly simple, but with a little pizzazz. They include some eye candy or sound to keep the shopper there and buying more stuff. Yes, there are a few offshoots and a melding of website styles that serve different purposes, but for simplicitys sake, lets just break them down into the three main groups.
Music sites are an interesting mix of all of these types of websites. There is basic information about the band, interactive message boards and fun stuff, and a business section where merchandise is hocked. But public perception of music websites is changing. Instead of people going to a particular bands website, they go to websites devoted to stats and discussions of that bands music. Great sites like www.jambands.com have popped up and serve as a starting point for music-lovers to read about many of their favorite bands or to buy their merchandise. It seems like in this day and age, the actual bands site matters very little. Why should I go to the official Phish site when I can get all the information at Andy Gadiels website without having to click around to find it? They provide more in-depth information and the bands seem to think that they must have a site to release their official tour dates and to sell their official swag. Lets look at a few sites from the bigger names in the jam scene and see what they have to offer the post-90s, internet-knowledgeable, website surfer.
Lets start with Phishs site at www.phish.com. This is a flash plug-in site of the highest order. It has a sleek new look compared to their old site which had simply a main page and navigation bar. As the flash page of the new site loads, a little Phish jam plays through the speakers which entertains the surfer more than just a normal download meter bar. Also, there are cool sound bytes when the cursor is guided over different pictures. The main inside page consists of a series of hexagons with picture snippets that link to the actual pictures, which is a very unique design. The biggest links take the surfer to merchandise like the bands movie, upcoming live discs, or latest album. Overall, the Phish site is pretty appealing. It does have sound and looks very cool. The negatives are the fact that there is nothing interactive about the site at all. The surfer cannot chat or contribute to any discussions. The prominent merchandise links on the main page can be a bit intimidating, too. I guess it is to be expected from a band that is currently on hiatus and earning no touring dollars.
Next is SCIs site, www.stringcheeseincident.com. Also a flash plug-in site, it caters to the more technologically advanced internet surfer. After choosing a bandwidth option, the surfer is whisked away to the main page that has vivid colors and a very slick and flashy design. The graphics are sleek and professional in appearance. Inside, there is the usual suspect of navigational links to tour dates, pics, news, etc. One of the cool and unique options in the site is the music bar at the bottom of the screen. The surfer can choose to listen to one of a few different tracks of live music from the band while he or she explores. SCI themed wallpaper and screen savers are interesting options, and their travel packages link helps a cheesehead plan for an international incident.
Steve Kimock Bands site, www.kimock.com, is a yet another flash plug-in site. Once inside, it, too is visually appealing. However, it is not quite as slick as the Phish or SCI site. There is Kimock music and the first thing the surfer sees is some recent pics and news. The navigation bar is on the left and is actually very much like the older style of website. Things that make the site standout, however, are the trippy bubbles that follow your cursor around and a gear section in the navigation bar. Hardly any bands give a detailed description of their rig and setup. One downside is a lack of interactive activities, like a chat room or forum, that might encourage more frequent visits.
Phil Leshs site, www.philzone.com, is one of my favorite jamband websites. There is no flash on this site and the main page has a big picture of Phil and is jam-packed full of links. Some might say that the site is sloppy because it is a somewhat disorganized jumble of different colored links. But if one can focus in, they will see that this site has it all. Current tour dates are seen at the very top of the main page, illustrating Phils love of the live show experience. There is a discussion board where fans can have conversations with one another. A setlist finder guides one to any Phil show setlist they desire. Community is obviously important with links to friends gigs and news about other jambands. Flash movies and song lyrics give the frequent surfer even more reason to make this site a regular stop. Add the fact that there are links to places where you can download entire soundboard recordings of various shows, and you have one killer website.
If you want a good example of an old-school music site, check out moe.s site, www.moe.org. It is very basic and may illustrate that a slick web presence is not that important to the band. The main page has a big picture of moe. playing live and a bunch of links in the navigation bar at the bottom of the screen. As a definite plus, the moe. site has a chat room. This makes it appealing to those who crave some input and interaction. An audio/video download area rounds out this very basic site. There is a bare bones, nuts and bolts approach here. Why spend money on a website when its all about the live show anyway? Simplicity is nice sometimes.
Another fairly minimalist site is Galactics www.galacticfunk.com. The main page is a press picture of the band on top of a space background (space=galaxy=Galactic, get it?). There is a basic navigation bar at this site, but it does include some cool options like a forum and setlists section. There is a row of colorful pics at the top of the page just underneath bright add banners that advertise the bands current tour. While a fairly basic site, it is a good one. One thing that sets this site apart from most are the bands extensive sets of photos. There are endless photos. They even have entire photo essays from particular tours.
Ween has one crazy site at www.ween.com. I love this site. I dont really listen to very much Ween and have never seen them live. Id like to see them, but it just has never happened. Until it does, I will spend my time at their website. Its an utterly wacky place, which is to be expected from such a zany band. After the surfer chooses flash (yes, this another flash plug-in site), they are taken to the loading page which is a hand that slowly raises and lowers the middle finger. Once inside, there is a graphic of a four-eyed steer with stuff dropping out of its nose every now and then. Putting the cursor over the steers eye or horn will make links pop out with cool sound and crazy animation. For example, selecting the right nostril causes a bullet to fly out which is then caught and nibbled on by a squirrel. This is obviously symbolic of merchandise in the Ween world. Other wild things about the site are some of the random graphics like a fish that stands on a tail that is actually a webbed duck foot. The audio is original, too. Streaming music is available at Ween radio or one can check out a list of tunes that never made it to certain movies or TV shows. If the surfer is looking for a bizarre and entertaining band site, this is it.
There seems to be two general camps in music websites: The newer and more expensive looking sites that require a flash plug-in and are very visually enticing; or the older style sites that have a navigation bar to take the surfer to the many different pages the site has to offer. Personally, I dont lean to either style as superior. I just like a site that serves its purpose, has some viewer interaction, some good information, and is unique.

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